Western Governors on Planning Rule

Here is the link..

Below is the summary in the press release.

The governors said it is imperative that the U.S. Forest Service coordinate with states and others in refining and implementing the new rule. The letter was signed by Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter (Idaho), Chairman of the Western Governors’ Association, and Gov. Christine Gregoire (Wash.),WGA Vice Chair.

“Given the joint authority and shared goals, it is imperative that the Planning Rule consistently and clearly recognize state authorities, as well as the need for inclusive processes and transparency, which will improve planning efforts and collaboration while reducing litigation,” the letter stated. “Further, given that both the Western Governors and the Obama administration have made the strengthening of our transmission grid a high priority, the Planning Rule must ensure that forest plans recognize this.

“With our recommended improvements to the draft rule, we can together ensure the health and productivity of our nation’s forests, watersheds and wildlife.”

The Governors comments and recommendations also included:

The planning rule fails to acknowledge the unique authority states have to manage wildlife, forest and water resources and to protect public health and safety within their boundaries.
A common landscape-scale vision for the sustainable management of forests is needed.
The rule should be amended to consider how the Forest Service will work with Governors on large multi-forest, multi-state projects. A subsection of the rule should be developed to specifically address planning for transmission lines; other utility infrastructure and facilities; and mineral and energy resources.
Because the management of public lands can significantly impact the economy of some local communities, the planning rule must provide additional direction for an increase in large-scale forest restoration and more active management. The current definition of “productivity” should be amended to include economic productivity.
The USFS should coordinate with states and ensure that forest, resource and fire management plans incorporate the plans and policies of state and local governments. States should have the opportunity to review, advise and provide suggestions on those issues and topics that may affect or influence state government programs.
State wildlife agencies should be consulted and their data integrated into the planning processes at the earliest possible stage. The current language in the proposed rule only requires the Forest Service to “consider” state and locally developed water, wildlife and community fire protection plans.

With regard to this

A subsection of the rule should be developed to specifically address planning for transmission lines; other utility infrastructure and facilities; and mineral and energy resources.

I am reminded of a recent trip to visit county commissioners in which it appeared to them that federal efforts on public land use, energy and transportation are not as coordinated among agencies as one might hope. Don’t know if a planning rule is the best way to help fix that, or perhaps a piece of the puzzle..

6 Comments

  1. The Forest Service will have fun with this one. These folks don’t like Draft Rule any better than I do, but for different reasons. I don’t like it because I argue (here, and elsewhere) that it fails an “adaptive management” as Adaptive Governance test. To some extent the Western Governors’ Association argues similarly. Still they are much more wedded to traditional planning methods than I am. That makes sense, they are an institution, whereas I’ve been called an iconoclast.

    I’m trying to wrap my mind around this sentence that concludes the Western Governors’ Association’s longer comments (pdf): “Finally, the new Planning Rule must recognize the preeminent role of the states in adjudicating and allocating rights to the use of water for federal and non-federal purposes.” I always thought that there was some “essential tension” built into our framing of federal/state/local that would disallow states from having “preeminent roles” where matters of dispute occur between state and federal jurisdiction. But I’m not a lawyer so I’ll leave it to others to parse that sentence. And yes I’m well aware that the states do believe that have such a role. But do they?

    I am an economist, though. Well, maybe not, but I played one in the Forest Service for about 30 years. As a student of economics, this sentence struck me as quite odd: “The current definition of ‘productivity’ should be amended to include economic productivity.” Wow! The goal posts have shifted since I left the government, I guess. I would have guessed that the key word would have been “efficiency” as measured by some form of cost benefit analysis. But no, for some reason the focus seems to have shifted to productivity. Anybody know why? I did a little Google search and found that my anecdotal evidence of the fascination with “economic productivity” seems to have made its way into government accounting in more ways that I was previously aware of. But in following, and sometimes commenting on blogs re: geopolitics and international finance, I’ve found such focus really strange, mostly because in governance the is “no bottom line,” and in such arenas there can be no single measures of either productivity or efficiency. See, e.g. “Measuring Performance When There is No Bottom Line,” John DiIulio, Jr. So it will be interesting (at least to me) to follow-up to see what the hell the Western Governors’ Association would have the Forest Service do with its suggestion.

  2. They could greatly improve their message if they mentioned that site-specific solutions will come with “active management”. Governors care little about science but, get elected when voters have jobs via political action. State and Federal Fire Agencies have never been farther apart in policy and function, and budget problems are further impacting public safety.

    If the Governors succeed in getting enhanced standing amongst stakeholders, you KNOW where that will lead. There are controls in place for removing a Forest Service employee for the mere “appearance” of corruption. Would a Forest Supervisor risk his career to benefit the local economy? Most projects that benefit the forest, also benefit the local economy.

      • These Governors clearly want more say in how Federal lands within their states are managed. They hint at “sovereignty” over their lands, to provide jobs and multiple use/sustained yield products that benefit their local and regional economies. They want their voices heard over the din of shouts of potential “corruption”. If the ecos fear the proposed “discretion” of Forest Supervisors, how will they deal with Governors demanding more voice in decisions?

        The states have already gone on record blasting the Feds “Let-Burn” programs. They have even more basis to denounce a profound lack of forest management and fire suppression, due to their own budget cut-backs in fire crews. For example, here in California, Cal Fire has reduced crew complements from 4 to 3, as well as dropping coverage areas, placing more dependence on volunteers and county crews.

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